Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fools: Definition Of The 40% Of People Who Don't Take Their Vacation Days

The summer is over.  How many people did not take any time off in the last three months - or the last year for that matter?  No one is indispensable.  No one absolutely, positively has to be there.  I have candidates who proudly tell me that they haven’t taken a day off in a number of months or even years.  They are fools.

I recently saw a study which says that 40% of workers don’t use their paid vacation.  The truth is that it is there for you to take and, in the long run, no one cares if you don't.  You don't get points for not taking time off. The only one who suffers is the person who doesn't take time off.  I learned, fortunately, a couple of years out of college.  During my first few years of working, I took very little vacation time.  And then after a couple of years, I took two weeks.  And know what I discovered?  It really didn’t matter in the scheme of things.

My first observation was that most projects I had been working on had not moved significantly during the time I was away.  I was able to pick up where I left off quite seamlessly. And then I discovered that no one cared that I was gone.  Nature abhors a vacuum and people will find a way to fill in.  That doesn’t mean I wasn’t missed; it just means people will rise to the occasion and get the work out.

It was a hard truth to discover that I was not indispensable. but it was an important revelation.

In fact, when people brag that they haven’t taken time off, I think that they are foolish. Study after study has been conducted that people who take time off are actually more productive than people who don’t take vacations. Anyone who thinks that they are indispensable is either a bad manager or is kidding themselves. 

The Huffington Post recently published an article about vacations, who takes them and who doesn’t.  The most revealing thing was the excuses given by people who did not take time off.  40% were afraid of the pile on their desk when they returned (ridiculous); 35% believed that no one could fill their job while they were gone (are you communicating and training properly?); 33% were worried about being able to afford the vacation (understandable, but not a reason to take time off) and 22% felt that they may be seen as replaceable (get to a shrink, please) by their manager or boss.

The one thing I discovered in business is that there is never a good time to take off.  There is always a meeting, a presentation, a report or a client.  Something always comes up which is critical and may prevent some people from taking a holiday.  It is just the way it is (by the way, this is also true about people who are unhappy in their jobs but can’t find the time to interview).  Smart people swallow hard and take their planned time off.

If you are one of those people who doesn’t take their allotted vacation.  Think twice and go.  You will feel better and perform better once you return.  

Years ago, the personnel department was renamed human resources to better reflect their role in protecting and promoting every business's most valuable resource.  I would suggest that starting at the beginning of the fourth quarter of every year, HR should look at employee attendance records and start bugging people to take their allotted vacation time.  Since vacations lead to healthier, happier and more productive employees (I wrote about this previously), HR would be doing a big service to their companies and employees.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Absurdity of Recruiters Guaranteeing Candidates For Their Clients

Most candidates are not aware that the recruiters who place them are guaranteeing that they will not leave their new company for a specified period of time. This guarantee is often unconditional. 

How weird is that? 

This kind of guarantee is a double whammy for recruiters.  First, contingent recruiters, no matter how much time they put into a job, no matter how good a job they do, don’t get paid until they make a placement. How often do we spend hours and days working on an assignment only to hear that the job was filled internally or not being filled at all? Second, when we do place someone, we then have to guarantee that the candidate will not leave the company for a period of time, usually three months; this guarantee is usually 100% unconditional.

In reality, this means that we are guaranteeing to the company that no matter what the company does, our candidates will stay.  It means that we guarantee that the job is what we recruited for and that there are no changes from the company.  In other words, the job the candidate interviewed for is actually the job they got (How often do companies change the assignment either before or just after the candidate starts?).  We are guaranteeing that the job responsibilities are as specified prior to the candidate starting (How many calls have we gotten where the candidate tells us that the job is not what was described while they were interviewing?). We are  guaranteeing that the candidate’s manager is tolerable, not a screamer and not offensive. We are guaranteeing that the job hours are bearable (I once had a candidate who was told there would be 40% travel, but discovered it was more like 90%, including weekends; and it was all production, which meant 16 hour days). We are also guaranteeing that candidate’s client, he or she must work with, isn’t mean, abusive or otherwise impossible (How many calls from candidates who say that the agency did not tell them that the client hates the agency? I wrote before about a client who actually punched me!).

If any of these terrible things happen, the company holds us responsible by either asking for their money back or asking for us to begin the search again. This makes no sense.

Over the years, we have had only a handful of candidates leave before the guarantee period is over.  Most people who leave their jobs quickly, do so because of issues with their job. Here are the common things people we have interviewed have told us to why they left jobs quickly:

-       Their manager was abusive
-       The job was not as described
-       The account they were assigned was actually in review when they started
-       The company was completely dysfunctional
-       Company morale was terrible
-       Company expected 90 hour weeks
-       Immediately after starting, had to take a pay cut
-       Too much travel
-       Nasty client
-       Change of assignment, responsibility or authority
-       Company decided to send them to another market or country
-       Loss of account (either theirs or others at the company)
-       Company merged/acquired
-       Responsibility but no authority

A guarantee should only be about performance. If the client has given us accurate job specifications and if we have screened properly, then the candidate should be able to do his or her job.  That is a fair guarantee.  Poor performance is almost never an issue. And in the rare cases where it is so, the company is usually equally responsible (see the above list). I once had a mid-level account supervisor tell me after only her second week that she was over qualified for her job; she felt the job should have been for a junior account executive or a senior assistant account executive. After trying to get more responsibility, she resigned in about sixty days.  Sure enough, the client demanded that we replace the account supervisor with an assistant account executive and then return the money difference to them once the second placement was made!

As an aside, I once had a candidate who was working for about six weeks and he became ill and had to be in the hospital for an extended period of time; ultimately he died.  The client called and wanted his money back. I told my client that I cannot guarantee a person’s health.  As a gesture of good will, I did agree to replace the person at half charge, but the client rejected the offer. (Of course, he used another recruiter and had to pay full price.) Go figure.

Over time, that guarantee has morphed from performance, to become an unconditional guarantee for any reason whatsoever.  That is absurd.  In what other business is the product or service unconditionally guaranteed, even against user abuse?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ad Agency Holding Companies Should Follow The Example Set By P&G

Ad Agency Holding Companies Should Follow The Example Set By P&G

Several weeks ago Procter & Gamble announced that it would be divesting itself of its weaker brands.  That is a smart move.  The ad agency holding companies should do the same.

One of the reasons why some ad agencies are under-performing is because they have a millstone around their neck.  That weight is the holding company that owns them.  The holding company model has been moderately successful.  But their success has often been achieved through mergers or heavy handed management which has caused previously successful agency brands to languish and often disappear. I have written about the mergers and the fact that one plus one often equals far less than two.

Several agency CEO’s and Presidents have privately confessed to me that if they were able, they would buy themselves back.  There have been a few cases of that over the years.  And in most of those cases, the results of the buy-back has been successful for both companies.

The problem is that previously successful agencies have become homogenized by their owners, especially after being merged with unlike firms. Successful owners (creative directors and presidents often have left as soon as their contracts are over). Everyone knows that the Lowe merger with Deutsch was a disaster and unraveled in just a few short years.  Their cultures just didn't mesh (this is not a negative comment about either agency).  Lowe, now merged with and part of Campbell Ewald, makes more sense and my guess is that he new agency will be far more successful.

I wish I could name other names, but everyone knows who they are. One situation I can write about happened a while ago.  I remember a wonderful man by the name of David McCall.  David was a disciple of David Ogilvy. His agency, McCaffrey & McCall,  was highly successful and profitable.  M & M was purchased by the Saatchi’s during the early days of the agency purchase mania, perhaps as early as 1986 or 1987.  At the time, during a lunch, David confessed that he was dumbfounded by the rules.  His agency was always profitable and well run.  But he was demoralized because he couldn’t even hire an executive secretary to work for himself because she was too expensive and had to be approved by the Saatchi’s (In those days, Sir Martin Sorrell).  Worse, he couldn’t hire the president he needed for the same reason.  Ultimately, David just gave up and retired prematurely.  His wonderful agency was merged and simply disappeared shortly after that.

I know that there are many agencies who would love to become independent again. There is no sense in owning a reluctant asset. A little pruning by the holding companies would be healthy and profitable for all concerned.
Creative Commons License